Layla and Quinn - Chapter 2


Chapter 2

This was her luck.
She was standing between a relatively clear stream and the main highway.  Next to her were an overturned wagon and the two bodies of her targets.  They were dead, and had been for about three days from the smell of them.  They were naked, their clothing too valuable to remain behind.  The woman’s throat sported the red smile, cut from ear to ear, whereas the man’s body had multiple stab wounds and lacerations.  Their belongings were missing.  All that remained was a small safe.  
She kicked the safe with her foot.  It was too heavy to carry, that’s why it was still here.  Pry marks were evident on the lock.  It was an old world safe, no wonder the bandits weren’t able to open it.  Whoever had killed her targets were clearly in a hurry or didn’t have the manpower to carry the safe.  It must hold something valuable.  All safes do.  
Dejected, she sat on the ground, staring at the rotating dial on the safe, willing it to open.  It was at these times she wished her magic worked.  It would make this a lot simpler.  
Long strings of expletives were running through her head.  
The watch has to be in that safe or I am royally screwed, she thought, this would be so much easier if I could concentrate.  If I had my magic, if I had Quinn to open it.  He had an affinity for mechanical things that I never did.
Thinking of Quinn brought a familiar ache to her chest.  When she had resurrected in this timeline in a rundown shack, the tugging sensation was gone.  She had waited, thinking the magic needed more time to find the connection.  After six years, she had no awareness of him at all.  She was alone in this desolate world.  She searched for six months, going as far away as 2 months walking time, and no one had any idea where an infant boy had been born.  
Nowadays, no one kept track of births.  There were no governments or churches for the people to report to.  This time had no law.  The world had ended and humanity had barely survived the Day of White and following years, for there were twenty years the earth had been covered in ice.  People had forsaken all inhibitions in an effort to survive.  If it could burn, it was used for heat.  If it could be eaten, it was eaten.  
Humanity’s attempts to keep itself alive took it back to a time as primitive as the Dark Ages but armed with guns and knowledge of technology.  They salvaged and rebuilt what was important to them, creating something crude yet new.
“You’re doing it wrong, lady.”
She jumped as she heard the voice of a small boy behind her.  She turned and looked and found him standing behind her.
She judged him to be between four and five years old; he was small and scrawny.  He was dirty and his clothes were too big.  Underneath the dirt, he had shaggy brown hair and green eyes.
“If you look left, think up and down at the same time, it will open.  Don’t know why you want Mama’s shiny things, but she won’t be using them anymore.”
“Crap. The targets are this kid’s parents, and he’s just standing here talking nonsense about opening the safe,” she thought.
Collecting herself, she asked, “Come here, boy.  That’s not how a safe opens.  What’s your name?”
“It is too how!” he replied.
“Now I’ve stepped on a four year old’s pride, sheesh,” she internalized.
Here’s the luck she was missing.
“I show you.  Watch, lady.”
He sat down beside her and stared to the left of the safe.  
Amazingly, the safe door clicked opened.  How in Duat did he do that?  She looked inwardly to see if she could sense any magic at work.  She sensed nothing.  She kept hoping that one day it would come back to her.
The little dirty boy sat there with a smug smile on his face.
“What’s your name, kid?”
“Mama said not to tell strangers my name.”
“Okay, my name is Eshe.  It’s nice to meet you.  See? Now we’re not strangers.” For some reason she gave this child her real name.
She smiled as sweetly as she could at a four year old.
He looked down, picked up a rock, and said in a small voice, “Galen.”
“Well, Galen, my boss wants what’s in this safe, so I have to take the stuff inside.  Do you have any family I can take you to?” she asked.
She leaned forward and inspected the contents of the safe.  Crap, there were a bunch of old world watches and necklaces, all gold.  What were a couple of merchants doing with so much metal?  
She wasn’t a scavenger or a raider, and she knew that if she handed over all all this gold to Mr. Wesson, it would surely buy her better contracts. But, she wasn’t being paid to return all the gold, just the watch, and she wouldn’t receive a square more than Mr. Wesson had promised her. She decided then to only return the contracted watch and keep the rest of the metal. This was about her survival and that much gold could buy a lot of things. She didn’t worry about Mr. Wesson doubting her loyalty. She was a mercenary and she went where the money was, and right now that was herself. At the end of the day, she wasn’t living in a civilized world, and she needed to eat too. She was her own priority.
“No, Mama was my second mama.  My first mama died when I was a baby, and Mama found me and took me.”
More crap.  Now she was going to have to find a place for this kid.  She couldn’t take him with her, a mercenary life didn’t allow room for family, but she knew she didn’t have the heart to let a child roam the wasteland on its own. If he didn’t starve to death, he would most likely be picked up by slavers looking to make a few squares off of young boy flesh.  She had no idea what to do with a four year old, other than they needed to be fed every day.  Did she know a relatively safe place that would take the kid in?  
Thinking about where to take this kid, she started separating the necklaces from the watches.  Mr. Wesson could have the watch, but she wasn’t being paid enough to turn over this much gold, especially when this was more than what she made over the course of several years.  She could hide this somewhere and use it later.  She fantasized about buying a horse and a better pair of boots.  
She pulled out her spare shirt and wrapped the excess gold in it and stuffed the bundle way into the bottom of her pack.  She took the watch, wrapped it in a cloth square and stuffed it into the pack as well.  
She straightened up and knocked the dirt off of her pants.  She looked towards the two dead bodies, wondering if she should bury them or move them or something.  Then she decided better of it. The raiders who had killed them might be back to try their luck with the safe again.  Missing bodies would tip them off that someone else had been here.
“Galen, can you lock that safe back to the way it was?” she asked.
He shook his head yes and shut the door on the safe.
“That’s it? No fancy up-down thoughts to lock it?”
He smiled at her sarcasm, “No, lady.  It does it on its own when the door is shut.”
She shook her head, fooled by a four year old.
“Well, Galen, do you know where you could go?  Of anyone who would take care of you?  Or anywhere you’d like to go?” she asked the small child, hoping that maybe he had some type of extended family.
“Miss Cotton has the best pie I’ve ever eaten.  I would really like some.”
Well, at least it’s a start, she thought wondering just how much of a detour this Miss Cotton was going to be.  She was to return within a week with the watch to Mr. Wesson, and being late would uncharacteristic of her. Maybe she could give him two watches to make up for the delay.
“I would like some pie too.  I haven’t eaten pie since 1917,” she offered.
“What’s 1917?”
“I’ll tell you about it on the way.  Where does Miss Cotton live,” she asked.
He pointed southward.  Why is everything to the south?  She must live at the top of the world or something.  
She strapped her pack to her back and scuffed the dirt where her footprints where in the dust.  Nothing else here, and she had a kid she need to pawn off on someone.  She motioned for the boy to follow her and started the long walk to the south.

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